According to reports, the latest game in the Halo series, which isn't due for release until next month, has already been downloaded early--and from all places, Microsoft's own Xbox Live Marketplace.
Joystiq reports that members of the game-modifying enthusiast site Game-Tuts.com were able to circumvent Microsoft's download key system to download fully licensed copies of the game to their Xbox 360 hard drive. Microsoft had made the full game available to reviewers as a download earlier in the week, though had put in a security measure that would only allow it to be accessed with an authorized redemption code.
According to a post on Game-Tut's forums, which has since been taken down (though is still archived on Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 modding enthusiast site Se7ensins.com), the group that obtained the copy has no plans to leak or distribute it elsewhere. The Game-Tuts forum member who penned the post also insisted that the code they acquired is signed by Microsoft and will therefore play on unmodified Xbox 360 hardware.
Of course, this is not the first Halo title to make its way into the hands of gamers ahead of its public release. Nor is it the earliest such leak.
Halo 2 was famously leaked a full month ahead of its release by a European manufacturing plant back in 2004. Unlike this version of Reach, the game code was taken from a retail copy of the disc, then distributed through pirating channels. It also required that users have a modified version of the original Xbox to run the game code off a burned disc or hard drive install.
2007's release of Halo 3 followed suit, with a nearly complete version of the game leaking out to the Web two months ahead of the game's official release. Like the leak of the previous Halo title, this required users to run a modified version of the Xbox 360's system software, though this time around Microsoft was able to bite back, and banned those consoles from accessing its Xbox Live service for 7,992 years.
The most recent leak prior to Reach, was developer Bungie's last Halo game titled ODST, which some lucky French gamers got a full month ahead of its release. Though this time around it was not through manufacturing plants or unofficial leaks. Instead it was a handful of French retailers who broke the street date and sold the game early.
Update at 3:16 p.m. PDT on August 23: Since this report on Friday, a verified copy of the game has surfaced on numerous peer-to-peer file-sharing networks, including The Pirate Bay, which currently has 88 users seeding the file, with another 530 in the process of downloading it. As with previous Xbox 360 game leaks, the use of this file requires a modified Xbox 360 console, which can result in a lifetime ban of that console from Microsoft's Xbox Live service.